Exploring the fundamentals of Direct Marketing.

So let’s get right to the point, precisely what is Direct Marketing! And do the Gen-Zers entering the marketing industry all fresh faced really understand how to utilise direct marketing to greatest effect?

It's been misconstrued for years that Direct Mail is the only form of Direct Marketing, with many people using the terms interchangeably. In fact Direct Marketing is best described as reaching out directly to your target market to promote your company, product or brand, so this could be via telephone, email, post, face-to-face selling (like the traditional salesperson), direct-response advertising or mobile (SMS text marketing).

The core goal of direct marketing is to persuade the recipient to take action, by connecting with people on an individual level, with smart targeted messages you can generate greater engagement to spur them into action. This is because unlike mass advertising through press, radio, TV or outdoor, direct marketing is only presented to people who have a known interest or need in your brand, product or service. Their interest is known or at least suspected due to information we know about them.

Why is direct marketing so successful?

So why is direct marketing so successful? If you make your message personal, it makes the recipient feel like they are engaging in a one-to-one interaction that is just meant for them. If the message feels personally relevant to them, the brain is more likely to commit it to memory. Engagement is important because it generates memory encoding in the brain.

There is a bank of research that shows how direct mail is particularly successful in creating a lasting impression:


49% more memorable than email*

Consumers who received direct mail offers were able to recall the brand 75% of the time**. A memorable message is more likely to lead to an action.


38% of consumers bought or ordered products or services as a direct result of receiving a mailing***

Mail is a proven channel to boost acquisition and other media.


45% of direct mail is still ‘live’ within the home after 28 days.***

Mail is kept in the home and on average revisited four times.

Direct mail is more successful than other forms of direct marketing such as email and SMS as the tangible format is more trusted and believed. The problem with email and SMS is unless you are targeting people who already trust and know your brand it can be seen as spam.

Boosting relevance for results.

The more you can boost the relevance in your direct marketing the more cost effective it will be, so target those who are more likely to be interested in your product or service due to their geo-demographic profile.

When we receive communications on products that are relevant or useful to us, or sold to us in a tone of voice we can relate to rather than sales spiel, we’re much more inclined to make a purchase. We are certainly more likely to remember that brand and what they had to say for longer than the five seconds that the brain usually retains it for!

Why is Personalisation important?

With so much noise from marketing messaging everyday, getting personal with your customers and making a human connection is more essential than ever if you want your message to cut through. Every buyer is unique with different buying habits, different interests, at different life stages, and living in different locations, so grouping everyone together and talking to them in the same way makes no sense and it is likely that you will be wasting your marketing budget on people who are switched off and don’t feel your product or service is aimed at them, or worse those who will never be interested.

The core aim of utilising personalisation to best effect is to improve your customer’s experience, making it easier and simpler for them to make their purchase decision and buy your product or service.

Research backs up a desire by consumer for greater personalisation in their purchase experience with 31% wishing for greater personalisation^ of offers, product recommendations and discounts. Segment’s research found that 49% of consumers say they have purchased a product that they did not intend to buy after receiving a personalised recommendation from a brand and 40% say they have purchased something more expensive than they originally planned because their experience was personalised.

Personalisation in direct mail means more than simply adding their name and address on the outside of the envelope, technology now allows you to take it a step further and use variable data printing (VDP) to change the text, colour, and/or images to match the profile of your audience.

Variable Data Printing.

Not heard of variable data printing? Variable data printing is a form of printing used in direct mail to mass customize your direct mail marketing materials, so each mailing from a batch of say 5,000 could be personalised to the recipient according to their preferences. Elements such as text, graphics and images can all be varied within the print run. For example;

  • You could use the recipient’s name in a headline or within the body of the piece itself.
  • Insert product images or information relevant to the individuals purchase history
  • Include QR codes

Consumer expectations.

Technology innovations over the last decade have increased the consumer expectations of businesses and how they interact with them. Consumers now expect brands and businesses to understand their preferences and only provide relevant communications to them with information, products, services and solutions.

It is also important to know and acknowledge what stage of the buying journey they have reached; awareness (interest), consideration (search, research), decision (conversion), or post-purchase, to ensure your communication is of relevance to them. For example consumers in the awareness stage are best targeted with additional information about your brand, product or service, whereas those who are already considering your product or service could be targeted with a discount code or personalised promotion to help nudge them into trial or purchase.

Increase conversion and improve retention.

Personalising your customer experience through content can be a fine art, after all you don’t want to make them feel spied on and over-intrude even if technology and information allows. There is also data privacy to consider and ensuring compliance with GDPR. However the common sense basics of localisation and relevance is a good place to start. Sending a well timed direct mail to residents on a street where a property has just been sold, is a technique estate agents have been using for years with their ‘Sold on your street’ mailings. Other sectors are now adopting this approach with ‘Switched on your street’ for Energy Companies, or ‘Leased on your street’ for Vehicle leasing.

Providing customers with a positive experience of your brand through relevant, personal communications means they are much more likely to purchase, boosting your conversion rates by investing your marketing budget in the best way.

Personalisation also differentiates you in the customer’s eyes from your competitors.

Improving your customers experience of your brand with relevant information, not only boosts the likelihood of conversion, but customers are also more likely to remain loyal to the brand, returning to purchase again.

Personalisation and Localisation effectiveness.

Making your direct marketing communications personalised and localised might sound like common sense and not something new, but the results speak for themselves. Take Coca Cola’s Share a Coke campaign – this was clever use of personalisation in marketing, by putting names on the bottles it allowed them to talk directly to every single one of their customers.

In an over-crowded marketplace, all consumers really need and let’s face it now expect is the personal touch!


*Royal Mail MarketReach, Neuro-Insight, 2018.

**Canada Post, A bias for action, the neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail, 2015

**IPA touchpoints, 2018

***JICMAIL, A month in the life of mail.

^ Infosys, Rethinking retail study.

^^ Segment, The 2017 state if Personalisation Report.

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